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FutureStarrNets Interim Coach Jacque Vaughn Detailing The Challenges Of Figuring Out Who To Play With Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons has seen his minutes decrease due to injuries this season, and now that Kevin Durant is out for one month and the Nets struggling offensively, Vaughn hopes that Simmons can provide more offensive production.
Development will take time and dedication, but he needs to find ways to incorporate more shooting into his game while creating opportunities for others.
Interim coach Jacque Vaughn recently discussed the difficulties he's encountered in trying to get Ben Simmons more minutes on the court. He acknowledged that it has been a "difficult" decision for them to give Simmons more playing time due to his knee injury and this season's lighter schedule.
First and foremost, the Nets must figure out a way to utilize their most talented player while protecting his health for the playoffs. Doing this requires gathering a great deal of data.
Another challenge facing Brooklyn this season is their inconsistent rotation. Last year, they were the worst team in terms of minutes played per game and this season have played more back-to-backs than any other team in the league. That means the Nets will likely need to use a much shorter bench this year which could make it difficult for their players to receive enough minutes to develop.
Vaughn believes they can achieve this by playing with a different lineup for most games this season. He first believes that an aggressive style of play with Simmons on the floor is necessary to protect his health.
He also hopes to give Simmons more touches in the paint, which he believes will enhance his development as a defender and rebounder. Doing so, Simmons says, will allow him to become a more complete player and allow his teammates to better utilize him as a scorer.
With Simmons on the floor, an active style of play could potentially help him hone his free throw shooting, which has been a concern as opponents often put him on the foul line late in close games when they feel untrustworthy.
Given Kyrie Irving's absence, it appears likely the Nets will start Simmons at point-forward against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. That could give him a great opportunity to make some big plays, especially with Durant out injured.
It would also give the Nets an opportunity to test out how they would perform without their star player, and from that insight they can decide whether they want to keep Simmons or rest him for their upcoming matchup against Boston.
Striking a balance can be tough, but one the Nets hope to maintain for as long as possible. That's why they've been testing different lineup combinations this week.
On Thursday night, Simmons delivered a big performance against the Portland Trail Blazers - 15 points and 13 rebounds in 32 minutes - marking his most extensive single game since joining the Nets in January.
He's averaging 7.4 points and 6.7 rebounds in 27.3 minutes over his first 37 appearances this season, so there is still room for improvement. The Nets don't know how they'll utilize him going forward, but they remain confident that he will stay healthy and be ready to play more minutes in the future.
Jacque Vaughn faces a difficult decision when selecting who to play with Ben Simmons due to the lack of depth at guard. It can be an unsettling situation.
Vaughn often draws inspiration from his mentor Steve Nash when it comes to "real stats", often using the Nets' coaching analytics team as a means of showing his players what's happening in real time.
The Nets have struggled to maximize Simmons' talents this season, but they hope that will change in the coming weeks as they near their final 20 games. At 28-34, Brooklyn sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and is tied for a playoff spot with Boston Celtics.
When I interviewed Vaughn, he shared that it had been an interesting process for him to come to terms with a player who has been underappreciated and undervalued. It would take time, but he believed in making it happen.
I asked him what steps he had taken to expedite the process. He responded that he had called the player and discussed with them what needed to be done. Additionally, he and assistant coach Logan McPhail discussed expectations for Simmons this season.
Vaughn also sought to motivate Simmons by setting an example for teamwork and being a leader. He wanted the youngster to take responsibility for his teammates and strive to do well on every play.
Even though the Nets have had a difficult season, Vaughn hasn't forgotten their talented group of players, including Kyrie Irving. His goal is to build a core that can win championships, and both point guards play an integral role in that effort.
Now that Irving has left the picture, Vaughn must determine how best to utilize his other point guards and what roles their young players can fill.
He must determine which center type he can utilize in his lineups to keep up with powerful bigs while giving Simmons the chance to shoot from the perimeter.
Vaughn must balance his worries with what he considers to be the most important goal: the team's objectives.
The primary objective is to increase playing time for Simmons, who has been averaging 7.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game this season.
However, that won't be enough to turn around a struggling team in Brooklyn. The Nets are currently on a five-game losing streak, and Vaughn hopes to end that trend within the next few games.
Vaughn will look to find some offensive spark for his team on Monday against the Clippers, who are struggling on both ends of the floor. With some extra offensive energy on board, he hopes to spark some inspiration on both ends.
Vaughn predicts Simmons to play in Tuesday's game against the Suns, but only if he feels healthy and ready.